Home Page








Urhobo States
























Urhobo Websites







The Concept Of New Towns in Niger Delta
Written by
Fidel Odum

When a statesman of Attah’s towering stature and technocratic credentials makes a submission in a lucid manner, not much should be added. It is left for policy makers to study his plan for possible action. Unfortunately, not much appears to be forthcoming from our decision makers in Abuja on this most unwieldy and increasingly messy problem of the Niger Delta. Rather than coming up with solutions and appropriate response since coming on board last year, the federal government has been dithering to the extent that even inner-circle functionaries such as the vice-president, the secretary to the federal government and the national security adviser, seem to be at loggerheads on how best to proceed, not only with one another, but also with the governors of the Niger Delta and the elders. Government needs to be seen as getting closer to a clear and specific action plan produced from all-round consultations. The Attah new towns plan is one sound proposition which cannot be easily overlooked. With four new urban centers in this volatile region, so many of the issues at stake concerning the non-development of the area will be contained. Of course, there will be a need when the time comes to categorize such a development plan within urban, semi-urban and rural needs in order to accommodate all classes of Niger Deltans and stem unnecessary migration.

In this piece, I wish to acquaint readers with a few examples of new cities that have answered satisfactorily, the demands of urbanization and related matters of development through a scientific application of human and technological resources. One of them, Milton Keynes, in the United Kingdom (mentioned in Attah’s article) is indeed famous as one of the twenty- two new towns developed since the end of World War II. Located in the South East of England, this new town was largely built up by the Milton Keynes Development Corporation, a joint venture of government (parliamentary and borough) and private sector. When I visited this town in 1989 with other editors under the aegis of the Foreign Press Association, I had a feeling of being back in the United States, because of its big avenues and boulevards (i.e lined with trees and landscapes), modern housing estates, shopping malls and business districts, which tend to have an American flair, unlike the older crowded cities of London, Manchester, Liverpool, Brighton and other much older towns. Although a new town with all the exciting features it showcases, Milton Keynes sits on a site of ancient history, as archaeological excavations have revealed, and it has successfully merged residual rural communities with the new industrial and technological classes. Looking at this town in its modern character, one cannot but marvel at what adequate team work of responsible government and entrepreneurship can achieve to give meaning to democracy and finance capital.

Compared with today’s Nigeria, where only one new city, Abuja, has been built since independence, as documented in Attah’s article, one can easily discern that our government-dominated economy, especially the banks and organized private sector, has very little to show in terms of large-scale investment. Even those sectors which have absorbed billions of dollars, such as the refineries and iron and steel have become moribund. It is amusing when one reads about so many billions of naira being declared as profit by our banks within a quarter, six months and so on, as if such profits portend great feats. Yet, as Central Bank Governor, Prof. Soludo once observed, no Nigerian bank features among the first one thousand leading banks of the world, and all of Nigerian bank’s total capital funds put together do not match the capital base of the fourth largest bank in South Africa.

It is when banks get truly involved in large-scale agricultural, industrial and gigantic projects such as a new town development that we can really assess what mettle they are made of. Then also, can they take fuller advantage of international finance capital which has no borders as some of them are beginning to discover. As you are reading this article, a new energy city, with preliminary expenditure of US$5billion, has commenced construction in China , a project being undertaken by an Arab consortium, made up of banks and energy companies. From this city, a hub of hundreds of billions of dollars worth of investments in petroleum, gas, electricity and other forms of energy is to be supplied to some of China’s contiguous cities. All that is being done now is to provide essential human services such as housing, schools and hospitals, while concurrently, work have commenced also on the core energy projects. Government will, on its own part, then match these efforts with basic infrastructure of roads, sewage disposal, recreational, sanitary and other vital needs which do not come under the ambit of profit motif.

It is, however, in America and the new worlds of Australia , New Zealand and South Africa that one sees clearly what the architect and town planner Attah has well articulated for Nigeria to emulate. Large proportions of the United States , Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are, speaking relatively, new towns and cities. South Africa’s Sun City (a holiday resort) is only a few decades old. When I was a student in Washington D.C in the 1970s and early 1980s, new cities were being built up in nearby Maryland, Prince George County, as well as in other counties of the US under the Greater Society Program of the Federal Government Housing and Urban Development department. Matching grants were provided by the federal and state governments to build new cities in order to decongest crowded urban areas and bring employment closer to rural and semi-urban communities. My elder brother, a lawyer, worked for the Prince George County government (local government) in its Model Cities Program as a community relations officer, reconciling developers (government and private) with the local communities, some of who needed relocation or, in some cases, appeasement before a new amenity or project could be located.

In the same Maryland, it should be noted that the city of Columbia, situated between Baltimore and Washington DC, was wholly developed by private business organizations. This is a typical demonstration of how a group of foresighted businessmen can assemble and develop an original idea into a gigantic project, in this case a brand new city. With appropriate coordination, banks and teams of architects, town planners, engineers and lawyers, with the professional support of publicists and marketing companies, can build up new cities in less than ten years. What it will take to develop new towns in the Niger Delta and elsewhere in Nigeria is a leadership with vision and, above all, the requisite will power. Nigeria has never really produced, at the highest level of leadership, such men of clear sightedness and iron-will to translate great ideas into reality. What is the big challenge in transforming Warri into the oil and gas headquarters of Nigeria , with all the majors in that sector of the economy relocating to that town?

It is now left for the federal government to explore, along with other proposals in its possession, how best it can introduce new towns, not only in the Niger Delta to appease its long-deprived peoples, but at least, a couple more in the Southern region of the country to complement Abuja in the North.